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"Why does my jaw pop when I chew food?"


I am a 23 year old male, and I have noticed that when I am chewing food, my jaw will make a popping sound when I bite down on it. I have had this as long as I can remember, but it doesn’t hurt or really bother me. However, other people can hear it. Is this something I sound be concerned about?


You are in very good company, as many people have issues with popping in their jaw. This condition (TMJ, short for temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome) is usually not a serious one in the short term, but can be an annoyance and can ultimately lead to some long term pain in some people. For most however, it is an annoyance that can be addressed conservatively, without the need for surgery.

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Start by avoiding stress as much as possible for the next few weeks, including things that may raise stress levels such as caffeine, diet pills, decongestants. Other things that might help include a mouth guard at night if you are concerned that you might be grinding your teeth while you sleep, which is common. Jaw clenching during daytime hours should also be avoided inasmuch as possible. There are some jaw opening exercises that can be performed, and sometimes are recommended with an over the counter anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen if there is pain associated with the popping. Your primary care doctor or a dentist can help you with these, and can confirm that you do, indeed, have TMJ. Finally, if none of these help and you are still having problems, an ear-nose-and-throat surgeon would be able to help with further options.

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